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UN Refugee Agency Preparing For Half Million Refugees Fleeing Afghanistan

Afghan refugees at the Iran-Afghanistan border on August 19.

The UN refugee agency says it is bracing for around half a million refugees from Afghanistan by the end of the year as an upsurge of violence causes further displacement.

The situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover “remains uncertain and may evolve rapidly,” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on August 27.

The agency said the estimated additional 500,000 refugees would add to the 2.2 million Afghans who already are registered as refugees abroad -- nearly all of them in Pakistan and Iran.

The agency cited estimates that 558,000 people have been internally displaced inside Afghanistan due to the conflict this year alone. Nearly all of them are women and children.

The estimated 500,000 new refugees in the region “is a worst-case scenario,” Kelly Clements, deputy UN high commissioner for refugees, told a news briefing in Geneva.

Clements said a few thousand Afghans have been recorded entering Iran daily, while traders continue going back and forth from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

"While we have not seen large outflows of Afghans at this point, the situation inside Afghanistan has evolved more rapidly than anyone expected," she added.

The UNHCR is appealing to all neighboring countries to keep their borders open for people seeking safety.

Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees, has held talks with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other donors regarding financial support for the agency's plan to shelter and care for new arrivals, Clements said.

Najeeba Wazedafost, CEO of the Asia Pacific Refugee Network, warned of “coming darkness” in Afghanistan. Wazedafost told the news briefing that people are calling an Afghan crisis helpline reporting executions, beatings, and clampdowns on media and radio stations.

She voiced special concern for women's safety, saying that women “tell us their fear of being killed simply for being a female."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa
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